Catch Phrases

Posted on 03 March 2010

It’s time to toss the dice ‘cause Winter is coming and I’m all out of bubblegum.  If it is one thing and author dreams about, it is coming up with a memorable catch phrase that isn’t corny.  But that last bit is the trick, see.  I could come up with ten million one-liners or “powerful phrases”, but they have to be more than just smooth on their own.  They have to carry the context of everything going on about them to a whole new level that gives the reader a chill.

I will admit that I try and write catch phrases, although they are more of a secondary to me.  Truth is, people in real life have sayings they live by, be it Murphy’s Law for most engineers, or The Golden Rule for elementary school teachers (which I must admit, I still am not 100% sure what that is).  Heck, even I have a few one-liners I like to throw out from time to time.  So why shouldn’t a character have a credo or zinger they like.

The trick I’ve found when trying to write these is to let them come naturally.  If it is one thing that will kill the phrase fast, it is being thrown out because of a contrived situation.  Characters need to find themselves as you write them, in my opinion, and to decide when doing the initially pre-writing brainstorming that Character X is going to say Y a lot is a good way to make Y a pain.  Cause then you are thinking of how to make Y useable, and it breaks the other characters around Character X as authorial fait takes over to force the catch phrase.

But did the best phrases come that way?  Well, without interviewing a buttload of authors, I can’t say one way or the other, but I’m going to be almost all of the “super-memorable” kickers were accidents or natural growths out of the characters (that they didn’t get looked at by a doc? *rimshot!*).

So, if you are writing, my advise to you: don’t worry about the catch phrases.  They will come on their own, but do look for them.   If a character says something quotable in the natural creation of a dialogue, don’t be afraid to have them repeat it later.  I have found that trying to make characters say things in new ways all the time actually loses their voices.  A little repetition is actually very natural, so run with it.  And that is about all I have to say about that.


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